That play by Sidney Crosby in the last minute of the game - when he took on the Islanders defense along the boards, denying them the puck, outworking and out-skating and out-stickhandling three guys - that is the essence of what we missed for the past two years. Just glorious. Quick thoughts on game:
- Simon Despres has to be better than expected for the Pens to make a run with this defense, and tonight he was. The baby gazelle will still have some growing pains, but when he flashes, he flashes. The big hit in one zone and a one-time blast for a goal in the other? What an unbelievable shift.
- Speaking of exceeding expectations, can this whole Brooks Orpik/Paul Martin shutdown thing be real? Averaging 25 minutes a game against the opposition's top line, and neither of them have a single penalty minute through 10 games. And Martin is starting to make plays in the offensive zone, getting the puck low and on net for deflections and spinning off of guys trying to defend him on the point. Basically, if you see Paul Martin on the street, you should salute.
- The Pens killed off about 6 straights minutes of penalties in the second period. It was not unlike the Dance...of Champions.
- Marc-Andre Fleury was outstanding through two periods, but struggled with controlling rebounds in the third. Whether he thinks so or not, healthy competition with Vokoun suits him.
- After hearing the Islanders' fans cheer when Sidney Crosby lay bleeding on the ice after taking a puck to the face, I wasn't sorry anymore that their team is moving to Brooklyn.
- Before Mark Recchi, before Kevin Stevens, even before Downtown Robby Brown, whenever we watched a game my friends and I would play "What if" with Mario Lemieux. As in, What if Lemieux had Dino Cicarrelli on his line. Imagine Tony Tanti on Mario's wing. What if we had Rick Tocchet (that wish came true). It's what you do when any great player lacks a proper wing man, but when you're dealing with a talent discrepancy such as the one between Lemieux and, say, Perry Ganchar, the What if game takes on a whole different intensity and level of longing. Anyhow, I thought about all that Tuesday every time Michael Grabner exploded into empty ice. What if Crosby were the one looking to get him the puck?
- Haven't made a ruling yet on Zack Boychuk. Nice speed and good creativity, but you can see why he's had a tough time sticking at this level. Get a body on him and he's pretty much finished.
- Tanner Glass is a man.
- Don't look now, but as of this second the Pens lead the Eastern Conference. Seriously, don't look now, it's meaningless. Caps in town on Thursday.